The Kingdom of Bhutan, squeezed in between China (Tibet) and India is a quiet country with a self-assured people, conscious of their tradition, anchored in their Bhuddistic belief but cautiously opening to the modern world. The steps taken are convincing: The system of education - modern and traditional -, the 1995 resolution of the National Assembly that at least 60% of the country must be under forest cover in perpetuity, the care taken to protect the water, to give everyone free medical care and education.
Bhutan is an ancient land secluded high in the eastern Himalayas with unique customs and people with deeply held beliefs. It is a land of dzongs and monasteries, monks, majestic mountains and a rich heritage and an architectural style like no other on earth and a land full of warm-hearted, friendly people who go to unusual lengths to preserve each element of Bhutanese life.
It is believed that the name Bhutan is derived from the Sanskrit “Bhotant” meaning “The End of Tibet” or from “Bhu – Uttan” meaning “High Land”. Historically the Bhutanese have referred to their country as Druk Yul, “Land of The Thunder Dragon”. Bhutanese refer to themselves as Drukpa people.
A small fast growing town, is surprising because it confronts the visitor with the law that all buildings in the country have to be built in the traditional architecture, even the airport, besides that they all are built without blueprints. Along the main street you will find one shop beside another, very small, interesting the way the shop owners enter their shops, they just take a ladder and enter by way of the front window. - Paro Dzong, used as a defense work against Tibetean invasion, today the border is closed and guarded, is one of the numerous Dzongs in the country now used as administrative and monastic centers, to be seen in the way they are built, both parts are strictly separated, what doesn't mean that they do not work together. Above the Dzong a watchtower dominates the valley and the road to Tibet and now houses the National Museum, depicting the history of the country, specially interesting for philatelists, because on display is a collection of Bhutan's stamp
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan is in the western part of the country and in a high valley of the Himalayas. The population of Thimphu is estimated to be about 30,000. It is a market center for agricultural goods produced in the surrounding valley. Manufactures include food and wood products. Thimphu is connected to other parts of the country and to India, on the south, by a highway system. The town has no airport or railroad connections, however. The royal palace and one of the country's largest monasteries are here. Formerly the winter capital (Punakha was the summer capital), Thimphu was made the permanent seat of government in 1962.
Blessed with a temperate climate and drained by the Phochu-Mochu rivers, the fertile valley of Punakha, it served until 1955 as the capital of Bhutan and today, it is the winter seat of the Central Monk Body. In 1615, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built the fortress of Punakha at junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers to serve as religious and administrative centers for Bhutan.
Punakha Dzong houses many sacred temples including the Lhakhang, where the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang lies in state. Damaged four times by fire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and by earthquake in 1897, the Punakha Dzong has suffered the devastation brought by floods which sweep down valley as the snows melt in the great northern glaciers, while bridges which connect the Dzong with the fertile valley on either side were, until recent times, often completely destroyed. The Dzong has been completely restored and permanent bridges built on either side.
The road from Thimphu to Punkaha crosses the 10,218 ft high Dochu La Pass, site of one of Bhutan's most enchanting view.
A 45 minute drive from Punakha is Wangdue Phodrang or Wangdi, as it's more familiarly known. The last town In the West before arriving at the Central region of Bhutan, Wangdi Is a typical small Bhutanese town. A bustling market with well-stocked shops and a pretty view over its own valley and Dzong. Wangdi is a good place to stretch your legs and wander around the shops before heading East.
Gangtey GompaSpotting black-necked cranes in the meadows next to Gangtey Gompa is an ornithologist's delight. The cranes migrate from the high plains of the Tibetan plateau in Winter to the milder climate of Phobjika.
The short journey South from the main East-West artery is well worth the detour for the dramatic change of scenery. Gangtey is an old monastery, inhabited only in Summer, a few hours' drive from Wangdue Phodran